Netting can be used to protect your fruit and nut crops from marauding birds and squirrels. But, did you know that it can also be used to modify lightwaves from the sun? Read on
People have used nets to protect fruit and nut trees from birds for a very long time. Birds have a nasty habit of pecking a bite out of one fruit and then moving on to the next, and the next, leaving behind a wake of damaged fruit that is prone to rot and infestation. Netting is also used as hail protection, in areas prone to that particular weather pattern, and to reduce seed loss in newly planted areas. This is particularly helpful with pea, bean, and quinoa crops.
Pests thwarted by netting
Netting is most commonly used to protect fruit and nut crops from bird feeding. Netting can also be used to protect against squirrels, voles, rats, Junebugs, and dried fruit beetles, though that protection is fleeting. I have been able to harvest far more of my almond, apple, grape, blueberry, nectarine, and fig crops with addition of tree cages enclosed with netting. As soon as my young apricot and pear trees start producing fruit, they will get their very own tree cage, for the same reason.
The down-side of netting
As handy as netting can be, it does have a few problems associated with its use. First and foremost, it is made out of plastic and it is not nearly as durable as the advertisements make it out to be. In reality, birds will try repeatedly and with great enthusiasm to get at your fruit crop (or your chicken feed), tearing holes in the netting. Also, netting snags on every twig, nub, and button it comes across, damaging plants,, and adding more holes (and a certain measure of frustration). Birds and other wildlife have met with cruel and horrible deaths because of netting that has been allowed to blow on the wind or swish around in oceans, lakes, and other waterways. Finally, birds are not only things that can get caught in loose netting - we had a rat get tangled up in the netting over our chicken run. It was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved. So, if you opt to use netting, you will need to monitor it regularly for tears and trapped creatures, and please, for goodness sake, dispose of it properly. Now, what was I saying about lightwave manipulation?
Photo-selective netting is the latest in agricultural technology. As the plastic filaments used to make this particular type of netting are manufactured, light dispersive and reflective elements are built in. These elements screen out certain lightwaves and then scatter the light that is allowed through. This spectral manipulation allows farmers to decide which light-regulated physiological responses are promoted. The scattering effect increases the amount of light that reaches the inner canopy. By doing this, farmers can grow bigger fruit with less water. The netting provides wind protection and substantially reduces evaporation. This lowers the likelihood of water stress and water-related diseases.
How to use netting
If you simply drape netting over your garden beds or trees, birds and other fruit eaters will still be able to reach a large portion of your crop. To be effective, there must be a space between the netting and whatever is being protected. Ideally, the netting is held taut, bouncing birds off the surface, rather than entangling them. This can be achieved with a tree cage, PVC hoop, or other structure.
Netting is a simple way to protect many crops from feeding damage, but it has its limitations and needs to be handled responsibly. Whenever possible, hardware cloth is a safer, more durable option.
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